The state's high-speed rail authority has offered an alternative route around Hanford aiming to address criticism of its plan by Kings County residents.
But some of those same critics said the new plan -- highlighted by adding a Hanford bypass west of the city -- does little to ease their concerns over lost farmland, homes and businesses.
Aaron Fukuda, a Hanford resident whose rural neighborhood east of the city would be displaced by the original east-Hanford bypass, said the western option will do little to appease opposition in Kings County.
"It makes me even more angry that they did that," said Fukuda, who is among the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the California High-Speed Rail Authority and other state officials over the train plans. "The way they included that western bypass, they tried to blame the landowners on the east side."
"... What we were requesting is an alignment that is different, like along Interstate 5 or Highway 99, something that's on an existing transportation corridor."
The new report says that about 450 homes and about 1,430 residents would likely be displaced by the primary route option between Fresno and Bakersfield. Most of those homes are in Bakersfield.
Different route options, such as elevated tracks in Corcoran or bypasses around Corcoran, Wasco and Shafter, would reduce the number of families that would have to move, depending on which alternative is chosen.
The same 114-mile stretch also could force the relocation of nearly 400 nonfarm businesses along the route that employ about 2,500 workers. More than 320 of the affected businesses are in the Kern County cities of Bakersfield, Wasco and Shafter.
To ease the effects on farms, homes and businesses, the authority expects to compensate owners for their property as well as for relocation costs.
For farms, the report says that compensation would not only include the land value, but also lost production of crops including long-term assets such as fruit or nut orchards or vineyards -- crops where the trees and vines would take time to mature before they become productive on relocated farms.
The revised draft environmental report essentially presses the reset button on the approval process for the Fresno-to-Bakersfield stretch nearly a year after the first one was panned.
The new version, posted with little fanfare by the rail authority and the Federal Railroad Administration on their websites Monday afternoon, will be open for 60 days of comment, including public hearings in Fresno, Hanford and Bakersfield.
"We know we haven't addressed all issues to everyone's satisfaction," said Jeff Morales, the authority's CEO. "But this next part of the process is designed to get the public's input to continue to improve this document going forward."
Between downtown Fresno and downtown Bakersfield, the proposed route generally follows the Burlington Northern Santa Fe freight rail line. But the line veers from the freight tracks to bypass the city of Hanford.
The biggest differences between the original report in August and the one released Monday include a bypass route around Hanford that runs west of the city, as an alternative to the original route that skirts the city to the east; a more elaborate examination of the potential effects of the project on agriculture, businesses and communities; and evaluating a second route for the high-speed trains into downtown Bakersfield.
Kings County farmers have been among the most vocal opponents of the high-speed train project, fearing that tracks would disrupt thousands of acres of farmland and force the relocation or closure of dairies, a major rendering plant and other facilities.
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